In my previous post, I talked about how William Deresiewicz starts out Excellent Sheep, the Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, with the assertion that mental health problems are on the rise among college students. Deresiewicz thinks the problem lies with education, especially elite universities.
Excellent Sheep talks a lot about how the desperate race to collect accolades for acceptance to an elite college affects students.
How it doesn’t stop after high school.
It continues on through college with the accumulation of multiple majors.
“The purpose of life becomes the accumulation of gold stars.” (Excellent Sheep, page 16)
As evidence that this quest to accumulate gold stars doesn’t stop with graduation, Deresiewicz says the pursuit of a guaranteed high salary, the “gold star” of adulthood, is what’s driving economics to be the top major at 65% of the top schools in the country. In addition, Finance has become the major of choice for up to half the students at places like Harvard, Cornell, Standord, and MIT.
Maybe we do need some people who’re smart about money, but with all the majors available, that definitely sounds like an imbalance. Something must be driving it, and Deresiewicz points to evidence that it’s not just the economy.
One of the reasons he gives for this mass migration is that there’s a clear path to success and money in these majors. That’s what students are conditioned to do in school, jump through all the hoops put in front of them in a clear path. So when they wonder what to do to get a career in say, music, and there’s no clear path, they avoid it.
That’s also the appeal of consulting firms, which are big employers of fresh graduates. They’re selective — so the hoop is high — but there’s a clear path from college to a consulting firm with interviews on campus. It’s also another way to avoid having to decide what you truly like to do and focus on it.
In my next post, I’ll go over how Deresiewicz explains how college admissions, particularly to the Ivies, has developed this purpose in life of the accumulation of gold stars.
Posts in this series reviewing Excellent Sheep
- Excellent Sheep review and discussion – Excellent Sheep Part 1/5
- The Accumulation of Gold Stars for Success – Excellent Sheep Part 2/5
- The College Admissions Arms Race – Excellent Sheep Part 3/5
- AP Failure and the College Admissions Arms Race – Excellent Sheep Part Part 4/5
- The Worth of Being the Best – Excellent Sheep Part Part 5/5